I first discovered M.J. Fredrick when I read Sunrise Over Texas. With her newest she proves herself a very versatile author as she moves from a serious Western to a contemporary story with a bit of a chick lit flair. The leads in this novella feel like actual modern day people, and this tale of what is simultaneously the best and worst road trip ever caught my attention despite a few bobbles.
Though published in March, this is actually a Thanksgiving story about two longtime friends. Willow Hawkins grew up watching her mother drift through life, dependent on men for her security and identity, and she decided not to make the same mistake. She has worked hard to make a name for herself in an advertising agency and when she decides to spend Thanksgiving at the home of a co-worker she recently started dating, she realizes she has made a terrible mistake. So, what does she do? She calls the one person she can always depend on – her best friend Cam Trask. Even though he has to leave for a job interview in Seattle, Cam still comes to Wisconsin to rescue Willow. They have Thanksgiving with his close-knit family, and then Willow is determined that one way or another, they will make the road trip to Seattle in time for Cam’s interview.
What ensues is either the best or the worst road trip you can imagine. The weather doesn’t cooperate, both Willow and Cam are running short on funds and credit card limits, and the car they borrowed doesn’t always work according to plan. At times, the story operates on a fairly comedic level. However, Willow and Cam also find themselves exploring issues that have remained under the surface through all their years of friendship. For instance, Cam has loved Willow for years but never acted on it. The reader is brought into the history between Willow and Cam even before they themselves completely understand it. For this reason, the story has a poignant quality that raises it above the simply slapstick.
If head-hopping and rapidly changing perspectives drive you batty, be aware that you’ll find these things toward the beginning of the story. I liked the leads and as a reader, found myself wanting to follow their story, so I adjusted to the pace pretty quickly. However, at the beginning, I did find myself thinking, “So, whose head are we in for this scene again?” more than once. In addition, while the main plot and characters definitely held my attention, the author throws in a few too many quirky secondary characters. We meet Cam’s family and since they’re practically Willow’s second family, that’s okay as far as it goes. The contrast with what readers hear about Willow’s mom makes a point. However, Willow’s mother then has to come back to town and make an actual appearance, resulting in a side plot that causes the main story to meander and lose steam. In addition, we see a little too much of Willow’s creepy ex – and I thought she let him off way too easy. Even so, the main story is very enjoyable so none of these quibbles sent things careening off the rails for me.
If you like the friends-to-lovers plot or you simply want to read a lighthearted contemporary romance, Road Signs is definitely one to try. It’s a little rough around the edges, but very fun to read. Cam and Willow reminded me of actual, modern people that I would know and I enjoyed seeing them fall in love.